What To Do If You Can’t Get A Flu Shot & Want To Be Protected, According To Experts
As cold and flu season gets in full swing, many people are prepping to avoid the virus by getting their flu shots. The flu shot is safe, effective, cheap, and widely available, and if you're able to get the flu shot, it's important to do so — not just for yourself, but for those around you who can't get a flu shot and want to be protected.
"The flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself from catching the flu this season," Papatya Tankut, R.Ph, Vice President of Pharmacy Affairs at CVS Health tells Bustle via email. "However, if you are unable to receive the flu shot this season due to reasons including an allergy or compromised immune system," Tankut says, there are ways to boost your immunity and help prevent yourself from catching the flu.
For the inactivated version of the flu shot, which contains dead flu cells, the CDC says most people are able to get it unless they have allergies to components of the vaccine, have had Gullain-Barré Syndrome, or aren't feeling well. For the live vaccine, the CDC says very young people, very old people, pregnant people, people who have weakened immune systems or will be taking care of someone with a weakened immune system, among others, should avoid this version of the shot. The flu vaccine doesn't prevent against all flu-causing viruses, but it is formulated to protect against the most common ones.
If you or someone you know is unable to get a version of the flu shot, you can still take preventative measures to avoid getting the flu. Here are some flu-prevention action steps to consider.
1. Avoid Large Groups Of People
This might not be realistic for everyone, but, as much as you can, try to avoid large crowds during flu season. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at John Hopkins University Center for Health Security, tells Bustle via email that "maintaining a minimal distance from others who are coughing and sneezing," is a key way to prevent flu, whenever possible. The flu can spread quickly in confined areas, according to Healthline. If you commute via public transportation, for instance, there's really no way to avoid crowds. But limit your exposure as much as possible in order to reduce your chances of flu infection.
2. Wash Your Hands Frequently
Healthline reports that the flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. So, by remembering to wash your hands regularly, and especially if you come into contact with sick people, you can help lessen your chances of getting the flu. Tankut suggests that you wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water. "Alcohol-based soaps and hand sanitizers are effective when you're on-the-go," she says.
3. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, Or Mouth
Germs often spread by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching an infected surface. So, keep washing your hands, and remember not to touch your face in order to help keep flu germs at bay.
4. Avoid Contact With Sick People
Encourage your loved ones and co-workers to stay home when they're sick. Tankut says, "It's important to understand the preliminary symptoms of the flu," like coughing, runny nose, and fever, and stay home if they show up. This will help protect your immune system, and avoid the spread of germs. If you do catch a bug, you'll recover faster by resting at home — and you'll help keep the virus from spreading to others, too.
5. Manage Your Stress
Stress takes a toll on the immune system, and managing stress well is a key way to keep your body strong while avoiding the flu, Healthy Women reports. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic stress can harm the immune system. When you're stressed out, inflammatory hormones flood the body. If these hormones are getting released on the regular, this contributes to chronic systemic inflammation that can impair your immunity. If you're prone to stress, finding ways to manage its effects — such as incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily routine, and making sure you're practicing self-care like eating well and sleeping — can help make you more resilient against illnesses like the flu.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours per night is a key way to shore up your health while keeping your immune system strong. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to illnesses, and studies show that people who are chronically sleep deprived are more prone to getting sick after being exposed to a virus. So, make sure get that shut-eye in — it's one of the best things you can do for your health.
7. Exercise Regularly
Studies show that moderate, regular exercise has a protective effect on your immune system. But bear in mind that if you're activities are too strenuous, this could have the opposite effect — especially if you feel like you're fighting a bug. Exercise in whatever way feels good to you, and remember to rest as needed, too.
Catching the flu is not only uncomfortable; it can be dangerous, especially if you already have a weakened immune system. But a few key prevention steps can help you boost your immune system to help you avoid the virus. Stay healthy.